I’m passionate about bringing practical mindfulness into the every day lives of busy people. Mindfulness can mean a lot of things, but I use it in the broadest sense–learning to be aware of our internal experiences and meeting them with curiosity and kindness.
If I rewind ten years ago, I was working as a middle manager in a pretty overwhelming job and struggling with chronic migraines almost everyday. I was saying yes to just about anything that was asked of me and being pretty tough on myself. The migraines became debilitating enough that my normal approach of just pushing through the pain was becoming untenable. I began a real journey for help and answers.
At the end of a long road of trying many varied and unsuccessful conventional medical approaches, I found John Stracks, MD, an integrative medicine doctor who was practicing at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at the time. He helped me understand the emotional and stress-related roots of my migraines. He helped me understand that the pain was real but there was not anything physically wrong with me. Thus began a journey to unpack some of the experiences from earlier in my life, to work with my patterns of trying to please the people around me and be perfect, and to develop the skills to set boundaries and respond differently to the things I was finding stressful in my day-to-day.
I began to learn to meditate and found incredible benefits from it. In the stillness of the practice, deep emotions would come up of which I had not previously been consciously aware. I once heard a metaphor for the practice of meditation as having a mansion where you only live in the closet under the stairs. As you meditate, it’s like you open up the doors to additional rooms. Sometimes what is in them is scary and you slam the door and lock it. But eventually you make your way into more and more rooms and clean off the dust and open the windows and let the sunlight in. It can be a lot of work, but in the end, you get to live freely in the whole house.
The formal practice that I did translated into more mindful awareness in my normal life. I started building the skill of choosing a response instead of reacting automatically. I felt my confidence grow as I was less hijacked by my emotions. I was becoming more patient with and accepting of myself, and more resilient in the face of challenges.
In the subsequent years, I continued to work at demanding jobs, increasingly in higher leadership positions, and my meditation practice was invaluable to me. Everyone knows when their boss is stressed, and the impact of that isn’t typically positive for team member morale and productivity. I wanted to be a leader who was able to communicate urgency and importance without reactivity. I also wanted to be able to receive feedback without getting overly defensive. As my skills grew at working with my internal experience in the face of high-pressure or charged situations at work, I felt like a happier and more effective leader.
Eventually I completed a two-year Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Training through University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, studying under two of my heroes in the field: Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. I am now happy to provide private coaching to individuals looking to build a meditation practice, to work with chronic pain, or to introduce more self-compassion into their lives.
I am married to an incredible and supportive husband and we live together in Chicago with our one-year-old daughter.